Before Reading Of Mice and Men



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‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck
Task Book for Reading

Name:


Before Reading Of Mice and Men
In order to understand Of Mice and Men, you need to understand some of the background and themes in it. Answer these questions, reflecting on you and your own ideas.
PLACE
Where is your favourite place in the world? Why?
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What place do you feel safest? Why?

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Next answer these questions on the DREAMS of your future:


  • What job would you have in your ideal future?

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  • Where would you live in your ideal future?

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  • Who would you spend your ideal future with?

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  • What might stop you getting your ideal future?

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The Background to Of Mice and Men
Background

John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902 and died in 1968. His most famous books were written in the 1930s and 1940s, and are set in California. They deal with the lives and problems of working people. Many of the characters in his books are immigrants from Mexico or from other parts of the United States who went to California looking for work or a better life

 

The Setting of Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men is set in the farmland of the Salinas valley, where John Steinbeck was born and which he knew all his life. Steinbeck's father owned land in the area, and as a young man Steinbeck had worked as a farm hand. The ranch in the story is near Soledad, which is south-east of Salinas on the Salinas river. Weed is nearby. The countryside described at the beginning of the book, and the ranch itself, would have been very familiar to John Steinbeck.

Map showing California south of San Francisco


  • When did John Steinbeck write his most famous books?

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  • What are they about?

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  • Where is Of Mice and Men set?

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  • Why do you think he set the book here?

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The Background to Of Mice and Men
Migrant Farm Workers

By the time that Of Mice and Men was published almost half of America's grain was harvested by huge combine harvesters. Five men could do what would have taken 350 men a few years earlier. The main characters in the book, George and Lennie are some of the last of the migrant farm workers. Migrant farm workers refers to workers who moved from area to area, looking for work. Huge numbers of men travelled the countryside between the 1880s and the early 1930s harvesting wheat. They earned $2.50 or $3.00 a day, plus food and very basic accommodation. During the 1930s, when there was very bad unemployment in the United States, agencies were set up under the New Deal to send farmworkers to where they were needed. George and Lennie got their works cards from Murray and Ready's, one of these agencies.





  • What were the jobs of the main characters in the book Of Mice and Men?

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  • What did this mean?

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  • What did they get for a day’s work?

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The American Dream

From the 17th Century, people started moving to America, dreaming of a better life. People went there to escape from persecution or poverty, and to make a new life for themselves or their families. They dreamed of making their fortunes in the goldfields. However, for many the dream became a nightmare as things in America started to go wrong. There were the horrors of slavery, of the American Civil War, the growth of towns with slums as bad as those in Europe, and the corruption of the American political system led to many shattered hopes. For the American society as a whole the dream ended with the Wall Street crash of 1929, where banks collapsed and people lost millions of pounds overnight. This was the start of the Great Depression that would affect the whole world during the 1930s. During the Great Depression millions of people were unemployed and looking for work. However the dream survived for individuals. Thousands made their way west to California hoping to find a piece of land to start again. George and Lennie in of Mice and Men dream of their 'little house and a couple of acres'. The growing popularity of cinema was the last American Dream for many, Curley's wife was one: 'Coulda been in the movies, an' had nice clothes.'




  • What did people who moved to America dream of?

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  • What happened in 1929 to change everything?

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  • What did people make their way to California for?

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Of Mice and Men Section 1
Starter
Why Of Mice and Men?

The title of the novel comes from a poem by the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 – 96):


The best laid schemes o’ mice and men
Gang aft agley [often go wrong]
And leave us nought but grief and pain
For promised joy!



  • The poet says “the best laid plans o mice and men often go wrong”? What might that make you think about the events in the book?

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Section 1- After Reading

Answer these questions.

  • Where does the book start?

  • What does Lennie do when he first sees the water?

  • What has Lennie found and put in his pocket?

  • Why have George and Lennie left their last placement?

  • Where does Lennie say he would go and live if George does not want him around any more?

  • Write down three things George says he and Lennie will have when they live off the “fatta the lan’”

  • Where does Lennie have to go if he gets into trouble again?



Extended

  • Write down three quotations that describe the setting at the beginning of the novel. What impression do you get of this place?




  • How would you describe Lennie and George’s relationship? Pick out two quotations that support your point.




  • Why do you think George wants Lennie to leave the mouse behind?

  • What is George and Lennie’s dream? Describe it in detail.




Quote

This shows me that…

“Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tellin’ you things and then you forget ‘em and I tell you again.”

George to Lennie




“Jus a dead mouse George. I didn’ kill it. Honest! I found it, I found it dead.”

Lennie to George.




“If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set. You got that?”

George to Lennie




“Run us out, hell..they was lookin’ for us but they didn’ catch us”

George




You go get wood. And don’t you fool around. It’ll be dark before long”

George to Lennie



“I pinched their heads a little and then they was dead- because they was so little”

Lennie





George and Lennie
Look at some of the things George and Lennie say to each other. What do you think this shows you about what the relationship between Lennie and George is like? Think about


  • Who looks after who.

  • What emotions they feel towards each other.

  • What they have experienced in the past.



Chapter 1 Comic Strip

Use this sheet to help you design a comic strip of chapter 1 in Of Mice and Men. Fill in the missing words and draw a picture to show events.











…........................ follows …......................through the woodland.


Lennie drinks like a …................ when they find the water


George takes a d…..................m…............. from Lennie and throws it away.









George loses his t….................. with Lennie.


He calms down and they eat b….............. for dinner



George tells Lennie about their d…...................................



Of Mice and Men Section 2

Starter


  • What were migrant workers?

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  • Read the quotation below. What about this quotations suggests it is a place where migrant workers stay?

Against the wall were eight bunks, five of them made up with blankets and the other three showing their burlap ticking. Over each bunk there was nailed an apple box with the opening forward so that it made two shelves for the personal belongings”


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Section 2- After Reading
Questions


  • Why did Whitey, the previous employer, leave?

  • The old swamper is called Candy. What is wrong with his right arm?

  • Why does George get cross with Lennie when the boss is talking to them?

  • What animal does Candy have?

  • What does George tell the boss about how he and Lennie are related? Is it the truth?

  • What is the name of the boss’ son?

  • What does George think Curley might do to Lennie?

  • What does Lennie think about Curley’s wife?

  • Who is Slim?

  • What does Carlson think should happen to Candy’s dog?

  • What is Lennie excited about at the end of the chapter?


Extended Questions.

For these questions you should aim to use PEE.




  • What type of person would you say the old swamper Candy is? Why?

  • Why do you think George is so reluctant to let Lennie speak?

  • What type of character is Curley?

  • Why is George so concerned about Curley?

  • Why is George so concerned about Curley’s wife?

  • What type of person is Slim?



Meeting the Characters.

In section 2 you meet a lot of the key characters. Match up names with the jobs and physical descriptions



Character




Job




Description















Candy






boss’s son





“He held a crushed Stetson hat under his arm while he combed his long, black, damp, straight black hair. Like the others he wore blue jeans and a short denim jacket. …his hatchet face was ageless. He might have been thirty-five or fifity”



















Curley





jerkline skinner







“she had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages.”



















Curley’s wife



boss’s son wife






“a tall, stoop shouldered old man came in. He was dressed in blue jeans and he carried a big push-broom in his left hand. .. he pointed with his right arm, and out of the sleeve came a round stick-like wrist but no hand”


















Slim




swamper





“a thin young man with a brown face, with brown eyes and a head of tightly curled hair”



Extra thinking: What impression do the readers get of each character from their appearance.

Of Mice and Men Section 3
Starter

Look at this extract.

we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and…

An’ live of the fatta the lan’ Lennie shouted. “An have rabbits”


Why do you think George and Lennie have this dream?

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Do you think it will come true? Why

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Section 3- After Reading.
Questions


  • How did George treat Lennie when they were younger?

  • Has Lennie ever hurt George?

  • Why did Lennie keep hold of the girl’s red dress in Weed?

  • What does Carlson say is wrong with Candy’s dog?

  • What happens to Candy’s dog? How does that make you feel?

  • What is the name of the black man on the ranch?

  • Write down three ideas that are discussed when the characters talk about the dream.

  • Who offers money to join Lennie and George in their dream?

  • Who attacks Lennie?

  • Who tells Lennie to fight back?

  • What happens to Curley’s hand?


Extended questions

Aim to use PEE in your answers



  • From what George tells Slim, why do you think he stays with Lennie?

  • Why does the shooting of Candy’s dog upset Candy so much?

  • What does the fight show you about Lennie’s

    • Strength

    • Character.


Section 3- After Reading
Put these events in order. 1 is the first thing that happens, 5 is the last thing.

Event

Order

Curley attacks Lennie.




Candy’s dog is shot by Carlson




The men find out that the letter of a former workmate has been published in a magazine




Lennie crushes Curley’s hand




Lennie, George and Candy realise they could have enough money to make their dream become a possibility.






Now for each event say how you think the characters feel at this point. If you can, explain how the audience feel at this point:


Event 1 is………………………………………………………………………………………

The main character in this event would feel ………………………………… ………….

The audience would feel…………………………………………………………………..
Event 2 is………………………………………………………………………………………

The main character in this event would feel ……………………………………………….

The audience would feel…………………………………………………………………..
Event 3 is………………………………………………………………………………………

The main character in this event would feel …………………………………………………

The audience would feel……………………………………………………………………….
Event 4 is………………………………………………………………………………………

The main character in this event would feel ………………………………………………

The audience would feel……………………………………………………………………..
Event 5 is………………………………………………………………………………………

The main character in this event would feel ………………………………………………

The audience would feel………………………………………………………………………

Of Mice and Men Section 4
Starter: In the 1930s this was a common sight. It is a black man being lynched.


Use this picture to help you answer the questions.
What do you think lynching means?

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Think about the picture and read this quotation.
cause I’m black. They play cards in there but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink
What does it show you about America in the 1930s?

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Section 4- After Reading.
Questions


  • Where is Crook’s room?

  • Write down three things that are in Crook’s room,

  • Why does Lennie go into the room?

  • What did Crook’s old man used to own?

  • How does Crooks scare Lennie?

  • What does Crooks think about Candy and Lennie’s dream at first?

  • What was Curley’s wife dream?

  • What does she say to Crooks after he asked her to leave?

  • Is George happy that Lennie and Candy have told Crooks about the dream?

Extended Questions

  • All of four characters in this chapter are outcasts. For each character say

        • Why they are outcasts

        • How their behaviour shows they are outcasts.




        • How would you describe the treatment of Lennie by Crooks? Use PEE to explain.

        • How does Curley’s wife treat the men? Use PEE to explain

Section 4- After Reading
Crooks, Curley’s Wife, Candy and Crooks are all outcasts. They are not the same as the other people on the ranch. Fill out the grid for each character. Parts of the grid have been done for you. Try to find quotations to back up your ideas.





Reason for being an outcast

Their Dream: What is it, and do they still think it can come true?

Attitudes towards the other outcasts

Crooks


When he hears about the dream of Candy and Lennie he wants to help out. “if you...guys would want a hand to work for nothing- just his keep, why i’d come and lend a hand.

However, after Curley’s wife comes in and threatens him.,he gives up on it again.






Candy









Curley’s Wife






She looks down on them and is rude towards them. She wants to be viewed as the boss’s wife and have more importance than the men. “ Nobody’d listen to you and you know it”


Lennie








Extension: Choose two of the characters and make a list of similarities and differences between them. Think about their hopes, their dreams and their status on the ranch to get you started.



Of Mice and Men Section 5
Starter
Remind yourself of each of these characters. Come up with a word to describe each character and a reason why you have chosen that word.


Character

Lennie

Curley

Curley’s Wife

George

Word to describe and reason why I think that.













Section 5- After Reading
Questions.


  • Where is Lennie at the start of this section?

  • What has he done and why is he worried?

  • Why is Curley’s wife lonely?

  • What did Curley’s wife think she was going to be before she married Curley?

  • Why does she let Lennie feel her hair?

  • What happens when Lennie panics?

  • Where does Lennie run off to?

  • Who finds Curley’s wife?

  • Why is Candy angry at Curley’s wife?

  • Does Slim think Lennie is to blame? How do you know?

  • What has gone missing?


Extended Questions

  • Do you change your mind about Curley’s wife after reading her conversation with Lennie is this chapter? Explain your thoughts using PEE.




  • Why do you think the death of Curley’s wife means the dream is over? Use PEE.

Who is to Blame
Each of these characters could be to blame for Curley’s Wife dearth. Give them a score out of 10 to rate much they contributed to the death of Curley’s wife (1 is very little blame, 10 is completely to blame) and write your reasons why in the box next to it.

Be prepared to put forward a case of blame for one of the characters in group discussion.


Character

Blame rating (/10)

Reasons for blame

Curley’s wife






Curley






George






Lennie






Extension: Can you come up with a list of reasons to describe why American Society might be to blame.


Of Mice and Men- Section 6
Starter :
Make sure you understand these words

  • Mottled

  • Sycamore

  • Periscope

  • Motionless

  • Heron


THEN read the opening two paragraphs of section 6 and sketch the scene. Label it with a least five quotations.
Section 6- After Reading


  • Where has Lennie escaped to? Why?

  • Lennie imagines he sees his Aunt Clara. Write down one thing she says to him.

  • Lennie also imagines he sees a rabbit. Write down one thing the rabbit says to him.

  • George’s voice is monotonous when he says “I could get a job and have no mess”. What does monotonous mean?

  • Lennie tries to get George talking about the dream again. Why?

  • Where does George get Lennie to look? Why does he say he should look that way?

  • What does George do then?

  • How does Slim help George?



Extended Questions


  • Why do you think Steinbeck started and ended the book in the same place?

Consider

    • Use of nature

    • Significance to Lennie and George

    • Idea of a circle narrative.




  • Why do you think it is important to George that Lennie is thinking about the dream at the end?




  • Is it an ending full of hope or is it an ending without hope. Explain your ideas.


Of Mice and Men Character Chart: Initial Impressions


Character

Physical Appearance

Behaviour

Personality

Candy

(The old


swamper)


Candy is a ‘tall, stoop-shouldered old man’ (p18). He is wearing blue jeans and is carrying a broom when we first see him. He has ‘bristly white whiskers’ (p20)


Candy shows Lennie and George into the bunk-house, and reassures them that their bunks are clean. He also warns them about Curley’s aggressive streak, although he is then worried that they might tell the boss what he has said. He is followed round by an old dog.


Candy seems to be friendly enough, although a little wary of the new-comers, unsure whether he

can trust them. Once he is reassured that they are to be trusted, he opens up and discusses Curley’s wife. The fact that he has a pet dog might suggest that he is lonely?



Curley











Curley’s Wife













Character

Physical Appearance

Behaviour

Personality

Slim










Crooks
























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